“Old School” Jiu-Jitsu | Kama Jiu-Jitsu | http://kamajiujitsu.com/


Up until the mid-late ’90s, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was done primarily for self defense. Back in the “Old School Jiu-Jitsu days,” there were no competitions to speak of in the USA. The only “competition,” was when non-GJJ practitioners would come in to the jiu-jitsu school (Relson’s in HI, Gracie Torrance, and Rickson’s in West L.A.) to challenge “a Gracie.”

Of course, anyone who came in to take up the Gracies on their open challenge often never got a shot at a real Gracie.

I guess they had to earn that “privilege,” kinda like how Helio had to earn a shot at Masahiko Kimura by fighting Kato first.

In my two challenge matches in Grand Master Relson’s garage in Aina Haina, HI in 1992, in my challenge match while at Ralph Gracie OC in the early 2000s, or in Professor Dave’s numerous challenge matches in SoCal in the late 80s-late 90s, the challenger originally came in to fight a Gracie. The instructor, then had them fight a student of theirs. Of course, if the student lost his fight, a Gracie may have then stepped in.

Why did they just not take all challengers themselves?

Here’s what I’m thinking on why they had their students take the challenges in their place.

1) To give the student a chance to apply what he has learned in a realistic situation.

I remember once being told by Relson, that once one of his students earns a blue belt, he’s confident that in a street confrontation, his student will prevail against 75% of potential “non-trained” trouble makers. By the time a student of his earns a purple belt from his jiu-jitsu school, he’s so confident in their abilities, he’d bet his house on the outcome.

Of course, we’d hear that from the Grand Master. But did we believe it? Not really (well, I didn’t). So many times, I’d seen martial artists trained in the traditional arts get their butts handed to them in a street fight by someone who “simply could fight.” Remember Kimbo Slice’s old backyard fight videos? Dude was not trained formally, but boy, could he fight! Although I WANTED to believe Relson, why would this be any different? After all, I’m 5′ 4 1/2″ and weighed about 130-135 lbs at the time. I was so conditioned to believe that while formal martial arts training helped, it was only “to some degree.” For the most part, there were just some people who could not be defeated, even by a trained martial artist.

I was proved wrong (many times), in my own matches, as well as those of other students. I remember a blue belt in HI from Brazil who came to HI to surf during the winter. Let’s call him “Andre” (haha, that was his name). While surfing on the North Shore of O’ahu, he got into a dispute over a wave with a local who was part of a local (but well known) gang. A fight ensued once they got to shore. Andre, was not able to submit his attacker. Instead, he simply “played defense” and kept himself from sustaining any injury. For most, that would be classified as a success against a larger, stronger opponent. Upon returning to Jiu-Jitsu class that night, Relson 1) told him what he did wrong, and 2) to “go find the guy tomorrow and take care of the matter (well, if you know that porrada means…).” The next day, Andre and another student came back with the news – Andre choked the surfer out cold.

Besides, what better testament to your art and to your teaching abilities if your students can back up your claims?

2) To prove they could teach their system effectively to their students who got results with the same devastating outcomes.

Of course, there are some fighters/athletes that require a black belt practitioner to defeat. Examples at the time include world class wrestlers (I remember seeing Royce take on two of them one after the other, repeatedly, in preparation for UFC 1. Also, Rickson with Mark Schulz, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and judo practitioners (like the Russian one Rickson fought in Gracie in Action 2).

Here is an awesome Old School Jiu-Jitsu video taken in the early-mid 90s. In it, you’ll see Lowell Anderson, Mestre Fabio Santos, Joe Pardo, and (the late) Mauricio Zingano taking on challengers at the Gracie Academy. Notice how the theme is pretty much all the same – keep your distance until the most opportune time. Then, close the distance and get to a clinch. Take the fight to the ground. Control, then finish. Classic Old School Jiu-Jitsu.

Did you see any “modern, new school, or competition” BJJ techniques in there?

No berimbolo, delariva, half guard, deep half guard, sitting guard, 50/50 guard, pancake guard, grip fighting, turtle, upside guard, standing guard, koala guard, donkey guard, rubber guard, leg drags, etc, etc.

I’m not sure any of those techniques would stand the punch/kick/stomp/slam test in a real fight.

Here is an Old School Jiu-Jitsu match between some prominent teachers now when (it looks like) they were purple belts. Rey Diogo representing (the late) Grand Master Carlson Gracie, and Daniel “Gracie” Simoes representing Carlos Gracie, Jr. Notice the use of the closed guard as the primary guard position. Open guard was (correctly) played if they could not secure the closed guard. In much of the modern game, competitors will go straight to the open guard, bypassing the closed guard altogether.

Concentrating on competition at IBJJF tournaments is good. Just be sure that before you start gearing your game for competition, you have a good grounding of Old School Jiu-Jitsu burned into your central nervous system first. That way, in a real time of crisis, your body will go back to what it learned first; Old School Jiu-Jitsu.

Happy training!

Ryan Young, Professor, Kama Jiu-Jitsu

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